Saturday, August 10, 2013

Writing = gardening

I recently did an intense 2 hours in my garden, which, like all gardens, is a work in progress. We inherited this garden from the previous owners, and some parts are fine, others ... not so much. While working very hard today, I had these thoughts about gardening and writing.

* Pruning

Pruning is essential in a garden. The lilacs were badly overgrown so I had to prune them -- hard. I worked at it for about 15 mintues before I even saw where the dead wood was and what could be nipped.

It's like a novel. If that scene or chapter doesn't help, prune it. My criteria is: if it adds something, keep it. Otherwise: get rid of it. If a branch has just a few leaves on it, prune it out. Let new growth start on the old.

Does it help? Keep it. Otherwise: out it goes.

* It's good to have someone critique your work

It's good to have somebody step back and look at our pruning and decide if more is needed. Of course, it's too late when they think Less is needed.

A good critique partner can do that, too. They'll tell you if you need more or less, and if so, where.

* Remember good form

I frequently lift heavy bags of mulch or dirt. I am not a big person and I'm not a young person, but I can do it because I know how to lift.

Sometimes I get going and forget to use good form. And when I do, I suffer.

The same is true in writing. Use good form. Writing is a craft so learn the craft. Don't try to take shortcuts in your writing. If you do, the manuscript will suffer.

* Take breaks

I used to be able to garden (heavy lifting gardening) all day, but now I have to take breaks. About every half-hour or so, I go in, have a drink of water and sit down.

A break from writing is good, too. It helps me come back and see my writing more clearly. A break can be a good thing. Just don't let it last too long. Otherwise, the writing won't get done and the weeding will be put off. Then when you come back to it, it's hard to do.

* When in doubt: transplant it

We have some rhododendrons that are struggling. So we're moving them to a new location with different soil amendments. They were drowning where we had them, so now, hopefully, they'll have better drainage.

Same is true with writing: if you have a scene that isn't working transplant it -- move it to later in the book. Move it earlier. Or move it out all together and keep it for another book or another time. Don't let your book struggle because of a scene. When in doubt: move it.

* Finish what you start

I sometimes let my good sense fly out the window when I see a garden plan I'd like to implement. Sure, I can do that, I think. Yeah, it'll require some maintenance, but I've got time and ...

I've discovered that whenever I see a new plant or a new plan, I need to make a note of it and revisit it in about a week. And often when I do that, I realize that no, I can't implement that plan. Parts of it -- yes. The whole thing? NO.

The same in true in writing. Know your limits. Don't plan out a series if you dont have the first book at least 3/4 done. Don't get diverted by something new. Stick with your original plan and go ahead and change it a bit, but get the first one done before moving on.

So there you have it -- keep gardening (er, writing) and eventually you'll have something beautiful to show for all your efforts!


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